Electric Works
Electric Works, Sheffield, UK Client: Sheffield City Council/Creative Space Management Architect: DIVE architects M+E: Skelly & Couch QS: Jackson Coles Project Managers: Gardiner and Theobald Main Contractor: GMI Construction size: 5,000 sq m construction cost: £2m completed: April 2009 photographer: Åke E:son Lindman In May 2007 Sheffield Council held an invited competition to design the interior for a new company called Electric Works. The concept was to open an office building on the recently created ‘Sheffield Digital Business Campus’. Electric Works was one of the first of five buildings to be completed on the campus, forming part of Sheffield Council’s strategy to create a dynamic base for businesses in the north of England. The project is a close collaboration between Sheffield Council and Creative Space Management who will manage the building. Their business idea is to create dynamic work places for people to be creative within. Electric Works provides flexible office space over four floors aimed specifically at digital, creative and media businesses between 1-75 people. Supported by a conference area, meeting rooms and social areas such as ‘the club’ which allow both tenants and members to access the building and make use of the facilities, 24 hours a day. In the final interview we were honest and said that this was a larger office project then we had previously worked on but our experience was based on a design process and whatever scale this would still apply. The client was also a little concerned about the distance; that DIVE was a London based company (now Stockholm) and that the project was in Sheffield and we would not be able provide a hands on service. We said the train journey only took 2 hours. We got the project! Toby Hyam, the driving force behind Creative Space Management concluded in selecting DIVE architects ‘after a hard-fought tender competition which had some excellent architectural practices pitching for the work DIVE put an excellent proposal together and will bring a European, design ethos to Electric Works. We are looking forward to working with them and excited about the quality of space we hope to create.’ The base build, an anonymous four storey speculative office building aimed at larger more corporate companies was under construction when we were appointed. This gave us some opportunity to intervene on elements that we felt would not sit so well with the fit out. So for example the solid balustrades through the atrium were constructed in place of chrome and glass screens. More difficult was to work with the mechanical and electrical installation as, not surprisingly it was never envisaged a building of this type would be divided up into eighty office units. Our task was to create a vital, inspiring and fun work space, where the office modules and the corridors should be designed in an unconventional way. It was this division of office space that became the more intricate task than creating the open communal areas on the ground floor of the building. We were very conscious of avoiding a prison like run of circulation with small cells. The circulation initially came from tracing patterns of electrical circuitry and cable diagrams developing over time to make corridors that began to define a footprint and graphic that runs throughout the building. Informing the design of the communal areas and purpose made elements such as the reception desk, bar bench and storage We deliberately chose to condense the circulation space by lowering the already low ceiling and using a backdrop of dark grey surfaces contrasted with strong colours giving the office spaces a lighter and more spacious feel. All offices have glazed screens looking onto the corridor with circulation diagrams used as the manifestation. At ground floor level the reception is located in a tall, narrow atrium space. Part of the brief form the client was to install a slide within this area, similar to those that had been installed at the Tate Modern. It makes for a swift and fun exit in approximately 7 seconds from third floor to ground and perhaps more so a clever marketing ploy. From reception there are clear views through the core of the building to the club and conference area. The club is an informal meeting point and cafe area for office tenants and their visitors, and for members who are not tenants of the building. The conference facility provides flexible ‘black box’ space for up to 200 people and sits along side three book-able meeting rooms. The faceted facade of the conference area is offset against the whimsical curve of the base build facade defining varying informal seating areas. The room itself is clad in honeycomb acrylic sheets which when back lit at night act as the light source for the break out spaces around it. A grass green carpet follows though all public areas making for a joyful area to work in.


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